New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
3 Now there was a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. 2 He came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God; for no one can do these signs that you do apart from the presence of God.” 3 Jesus answered him, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God without being born from above.” 4 Nicodemus said to him, “How can anyone be born after having grown old? Can one enter a second time into the mother’s womb and be born?” 5 Jesus answered, “Very truly, I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit. 6 What is born of the flesh is flesh, and what is born of the Spirit is spirit.7 Do not be astonished that I said to you, ‘You must be born from above.’ 8 The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Do you nourish your faith with prayerful reflection of the word of God? When Nicodemus heard about Jesus’ miracles and extraordinary teaching, he decided to meet with him privately, away from the crowds and the public spotlight. Nicodemus was no ordinary Jew. He was a religious ruler and member of the Sanhedrin, which was the supreme court of the Jews, and a teacher of Israel (John 3:10). He was a committed Pharisee who tried to perfectly follow the law of Moses, as found in Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Numbers.
Nicodemus decided to meet with Jesus at night, possibly for two reasons. He may have been cautious and not ready to publicly associate himself with Jesus since many Pharisees opposed Jesus’ teaching . It is also likely that Nicodemus chose the night as the best time for seeking a private and undisturbed conversation with Jesus. The rabbis declared that the best time to study the law was at night after the day’s work was completed and the household was at rest. When Nicodemus saw Jesus he addressed him as rabbi (a teacher of God’s word and law) and acknowledged that Jesus’ teaching came from God.
Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus went to the very heart of the Jewish law – how can one get right with God and enter God’s kingdom? Jesus’ answer was brief and startling: “Unless one is born from above, he cannot see God.” The new birth which Jesus spoke about was not a physical birth but the beginning of a spiritual birth which is something completely new and radical, and from above, namely from God himself. Jesus said that this rebirth was necessary if one was to enter God’s kingdom. Nicodemus thought that to be born again, even spiritually, was impossible. He probably knew too well from experience that anyone who wants to be changed from within, can’t accomplish this by oneself. Jesus explained that this change could only come about through the work and action of the Holy Spirit. This rebirth in the Spirit is very real and experiential, like the wind which can be felt and heard while it is visibly unseen to the naked eye.
What does it mean to be reborn in the Spirit? The new birth which Jesus speaks of is a spiritual birth to a life which is transformed through the power of God. This new life brings us into a relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters (Romans 6:4; 8:10-11). This new birth is made possible when one is baptized into Christ and receives the gift of the Holy Spirit. God wants to renew all of his people in the gift of new life in his Holy Spirit. This new life in the Spirit brings us into God’s kingdom of righteousness, peace, and joy (Romans 14:17).
To be reborn in the Spirit is to enter that society in which God is honored and obeyed. Those who willingly accept God’s rule in their lives become citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom and members of God’s family – his adopted sons and daughters. And they enter into possession of the life which comes from God himself, an everlasting life of love, peace, joy, and freedom from sin, oppression, and corruption. Do you know the joy and freedom of the new birth and abundant life which Jesus Christ has won for you?
“Lord Jesus Christ, you offer us abundant new life and power to live as sons and daughters of our Father in heaven. Renew in me the gift of faith to accept and obey your life-giving word and to cooperate with the transforming power of your Holy Spirit who changes us into your likeness. May your kingdom come and your will be done in my life today, tomorrow, and always.”